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Iran: IBAHRI condemns prison sentence against Reza Khandan and calls for charges to be dropped

Statement, 21.2.23

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the issuance of a summons for Iranian civil activist Reza Khandan to begin a six-year prison sentence that was handed down in 2018 for a Facebook post published in support of calls to dismantle discriminatory laws against women and for the release of human rights defenders. The IBAHRI calls on Iran’s authorities to drop all charges against Khandan, the husband of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh[1].

Sotoudeh, sentenced to 38 years imprisonment and 148 lashes – the most severe sentence recorded against a lawyer or human rights defender in Iran in recent years – has been on medical furlough from prison since July 2021. She was recently interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on CNN and spoke about the recent protests in Iran, political prisoners and the mounting concerns over the health of activist Farhad Meysami, who was on hunger strike in protest of Iran’s compulsory headscarf policy.  

In January 2019 Khandan was sentenced to six years' imprisonment by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. He appealed the decision. The sentence had not been enforced. He has now been summoned to report to prison to begin serving his sentence.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc commented: ‘The summons of Reza Khandan is clearly another attempt by Iran’s authorities to intimidate him and his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, into silence, and to stifle the momentum of protests. The IBAHRI condemns these actions in the strongest possible terms and calls for the summons of Khandan to be rescinded and for all charges against the couple to be dropped. The use of law to make it compulsory for women to wear a hijab is discriminatory and an affront to a woman’s right to equality and dignity. Protestors are telling Iran’s rulers that this law is not respected and cannot be enforced with brutal suppression, lengthy prison sentences and/or executions. Such actions by Iran’s authorities are a manifestation of their fear; realising they cannot govern with the consent of citizens, they instead seek to subjugate them. The IBAHRI urges Iran’s judiciary to adhere to international human rights laws and principles.’

In 2018, Khandan was arrested and charged with ‘spreading propaganda against the system’, ‘colluding to commit crimes against national security’ and ‘propagating and promoting disregard for hijab in the society’. He has publicly campaigned for the release of his wife, who has represented several women arrested for peacefully protesting the compulsory hijab law and is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Mark Stephens CBE stated: ‘The IBAHRI condemns in the strongest possible terms the Iranian authorities’ latest attempt to intimidate Reza Khandan. This action demonstrates not only the brazen silencing of renowned activists, but also the targeting of any Iranian who voices support for the improvement of women’s rights in Iran. With the targeting of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s husband, we direct Iran’s authorities to Resolution 68/181, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It calls on States, inter alia, to ensure that the promotion and protection of human rights are not criminalised and to refrain from any act of intimidation or reprisal against women human rights defenders or their family members. The IBAHRI calls for Iran to respect an individual’s rights to exercise freedom of expression and their right to family life.

Khandan’s summons occurs against the backdrop of mass protests against mandatory hijab laws that have swelled into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s ruling clerical regime. There have been at least 520 protest-related deaths and detainment of almost 20,000 individuals. In a bid to deter further demonstrations, authorities have turned to the Revolutionary Court system, renowned for dispensing severe sentences against activists and protestors, including the use of the death penalty.


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[1] Nasrin Sotoudeh has for more than a decade, been a leading voice in support of human rights and the rule of law in Iran, representing imprisoned women targeted for protesting the compulsory hijab law and speaking out against injustice. For her work, she has endured fabricated legal charges, grossly disproportionate prison sentences and serious health deterioration.